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U.S slams Venezuela for alleged FARC connections

by: jim kouri | published: 09 14, 2011

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The U.S. Treasury Department slammed four close friends and associates of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for allegedly helping Colombia's Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) Marxist-guerrilla organization in their cocaine-trafficking operations, according to a report obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police on Saturday. The four suspects -- a Colombian army general, an intelligence officer and two politicians -- are now on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of people subject to sanctions. All are accused of helping the Colombian rebels smuggle cocaine and weapons.

The sanctions were announced by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Venezuela's government quickly condemned the U.S. measure as "an act of aggression."

"Today's action exposes four Venezuelan government officials as key facilitators of arms, security, training and other assistance in support of the FARC's operations in Venezuela," said OFAC director Adam Szubin.

"OFAC will continue to aggressively target the FARC support structures in Venezuela and throughout the region," he added.

The named Venezuelan officials are accused of collaborating with the FARC, which the U.S. State Department designates a "narco-terrorist" organization. The four suspects are:

General Cliver Alcala Cordones, 49, who commands the Venezuelan army's 4th Armoured Division Freddy Bernal Rosales, 49, a congressman and former mayor of a district of Caracas Ramon Madriz Moreno, 54, a Venezuelan intelligence officer Amilcar Figueroa Salazar, 57, a member of Venezuela's delegation to the Latin American Parliament Venezuela's Congressman Freddy Bernal rejected the U.S. accusations as "an aggression" against Venezuela. "If they hope to frighten me with their gringo list, now more than ever I kneel down for Chavez and the revolution," he wrote to his friends and supporters on Twitter.

The U.S. has frequently accused Venezuela's left-wing government of supporting Colombia's FARC rebels and failing to combat cocaine trafficking.

Venezuelan authorities deny the accusations and claim they've arrested a number of top drug traffickers.

Last year Venezuela's relations with Colombia broke down over accusations by the then-President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, that Venezuela was providing aid and comfort to FARC guerrillas.

During the Summer, three Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) members -- Edilberto Berrio Berrio, a/k/a "El Gavilan," Alejsndro Rengifo, a/k/a "El Gato," and Anderson Champuro Dogirama, a/k/a "El Tigre," -- were convicted in New York City for their roles in the hostage-taking and hostage-taking conspiracy of an American citizen in Panama by the 57th Front of the FARC, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization.

The three terrorists were arrested in Colombia in December 2009 and extradited to the U.S. in late 2010 and early 2011, and found guilty on June 20, 2011.

The FARC is dedicated to the violent overthrow of Colombia's democratically-elected government and the FARC’s 57th Front operates in the territory within Colombia's Choco Department, which borders Panama. It supports the FARC's terrorist activities through narcotics trafficking and kidnapping for ransom, including the kidnapping of Americans and other foreign nationals.

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